Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Cá Nướng

"Something light and Asian." What is "What Ann wants for dinner, Alex."? Actually, just her texted answer to my inevitable Monday question. After the big pork feed on Sunday, we were definitely in the mood for something light, especially with the weather having finally broken after a long, long winter.

Rockfish are running in the Potomac right now and the season won't be open very long, the fish getting ready to spawn and off limits once that gets under way. Rockfish is what everyone around here calls Striped Bass. Try asking for Striped Bass in Virginia and you are likely to get stares. Rock as it is known is what we call this king of American eating fish.

There is no place I can quench my metaphorical thirst for Vietnamese food around here, so I am relegated to doing it myself. Not a problem, but sometimes a guy would like to go out to eat once in a while. Being in a Vietnamese mood, I decided to do my take on grilled or roasted whole fish, Cá Nướng.

Here you see a 3-pound rockfish that I butterflied, rubbed with honey, and coated with lots of ginger, garlic, and lemongrass, all finely minced. I put it in the oven until it was just done then topped it with green onions that I just blanched in hot oil (mỡ hành) and toasted peanuts, a pretty usual garnish for roasted fish.


Roasted Butterflied Rockfish with Peanuts and Oil-Blanched Green Onions


When I do this with whole catfish (awesome by the way), I like to highly caramelize the fish. When I am working with the king of our eating fish, I want the wonderful rockfish to shine through. So I have kept the caramel to a minimum by cooking the fish as little as possible. With catfish, I will often slather the cooked fish with more honey and put in back in the oven or grill to become deliciously brown.


Herbs (cilantro and Thai basil), Lime, and Nước Chấm
We decided to eat the fish rolled with fresh herbs in rice paper (bánh tráng). While the fish was roasting, I prepped a plate of Thai basil and cilantro. If we had decent other herbs at this time of year, I would have used them too, but this was it. I also threw together a quick nước chấm while the fish was in the oven (fish sauce, lime juice, sugar, garlic, and Thai chiles).

All a Roll Needs is a Bowl of Nước Chấm!

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